Thursday, January 28, 2010


Many Federation leaders received the following letter from JDC's "Executive Director -- Strategic Development" (clue -- that's an elaborate cover for...."fund raiser") a few days ago:

As you may know, the Jewish Agency Board of Governors (BOG) meetings will be
held in St. Petersburg, Russia a month from now. For those persons who may
be attending from your community and are interested in participating, JDC,
in cooperation with Jewish Federations of North America, is organizing home
visits to elderly and children clients, as well as an in-depth tour of the
YESOD Jewish Center (including Hesed Avraham) - all following the BOG
meetings, starting on Tuesday, February 23 at 2:00 pm and continuing on
Wednesday, February 24.

Please reply at your earliest convenience to let me know if you and/or
others from _________ are going to attend the BOG, and wish to take
advantage of this additional opportunity in St. Petersburg.

Best wishes and Shabbat Shalom!

Michael L. Novick
Executive Director - Strategic Development
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

It is no coincidence, I am certain, that Michael's note arrived the day after JDC leaders met with JAFI and leaders of JFNA in New York to again discuss, among other things, working more closely together. Let's discuss, shall we, what could be the possible purpose of such an "additional opportunity" being afforded those who attend the Jewish Agency Board meetings in St. Petersburg:

1. I (and every other who has ever done so) will never forget delivering a Chesed food package to an elderly Jew in the FSU. I will never forget the hovel I visited in 1996, the dignity of the elderly couple living there, the care with which the wife cared for her disabled husband. It was a seminal moment that we shared and it led to a deeper commitment to community and People. And, we raised a great deal of money out of those visits for our campaigns.

2. But, what would be the purpose of such a visit absent as fund raising component today. What would our friends at the Joint wish to exploit from such a visit in 2010? That the food needs today are the same or greater than fifteen years ago? That the Joint relationships to the Chesed societies are the same or greater than fifteen years ago?

3. And what will JFNA's leaders, who have apparently already committed to these visits, draw from them? From this one visit, a broad conclusion as to needs across Russia and the FSU? I doubt it. Other than the empathy we have all experienced and will experience again, will these visits prove that the "needs" articulated by the Joint for $30 million for purposes for which they have provided no details, somehow be proved? If that's what the Joint believes, I think they believe Federations and JFNA leaders to be naive beyond belief.

Back in the day, on national Missions that were structured to showcase the brilliant work on the ground of both JDC and JAFI, it was not unusual to see Mission participants picked up by Joint staff with no prior notice to the Mission, sweep up several Mission participants from the midst of carefully thought through Mission programming, to "expose them" to a Joint program with an air of exclusivity. I guess the current Executive Director--Strategic Development believes that what worked then will work now. Maybe he's right. The chutzpah of the past becomes the chutzpah of the present. And, sadly, JFNA is right there with 'em.


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